Spoken word classification in children and adults

Julia M. Carroll, Joanne M. Myers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Preschool children often have difficulties in word classification, despite good speech perception and production. Some researchers suggest that they represent words using phonetic features rather than phonemes. In this study, the authors examined whether there is a progression from feature-based to phoneme-based processing across age groups and whether responses are consistent across tasks and stimuli. Method: In Study 1, 120 three- to five-year-old children completed 3 tasks assessing use of phonetic features in classification, with an additional 58 older children completing 1 of the 3 tasks. In Study 2, all of the children, together with an additional adult sample, completed a nonword learning task. Results: In all 4 tasks, children classified words sharing phonemes as similar. In addition, children regarded words as similar if they shared manner of articulation, particularly word finally. Adults also showed this sensitivity to manner, but across the tasks, there was a pattern of increasing use of phonemic information with age. Conclusions: Children tend to classify words as similar if they share phonemes or if they share manner of articulation word finally. Use of phonemic information becomes more common with age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-147
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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